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Non-voting students cite lack of faith in presidential candidates

EVAN CARAVELLI/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Chris Brown, a philosophy graduate student and teaching assistant, sits on the steps of the Social Sciences building yesterday. Despite having lived in the United States since he was a teenager, Brown - a British citizen - has chosen not to participate in the American political process.
By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
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Some UA students are not voting today because they do not believe either presidential candidate can implement positive change for the United States.

William Dixon, professor and head of the political science department, said the early deadline for voter registration, being too busy, and being misinformed about voting are three major reasons some students might not vote.

"Typically there are barriers, and the barriers to voting are usually more severe to young people than they are for others," Dixon said.

When the local FOX News channel reported that it was illegal for out of state college students to register in Tucson, several students were not informed that this report was untrue and did not register to vote, Dixon said.

Shannon Garitty, a pre-physiological sciences junior, said he is not voting today because he doesn't believe his vote will make a difference in the outcome of the election.

"I'd feel like I'm choosing between the lesser of two evils," Garitty said. "I don't have much faith in our political structure."

Garitty, 24, said he was raised by politically active Democratic parents, but is not registered to vote because he is not interested in politics.

"There's a sense in which your vote doesn't really count very much in these states where the race is already settled," Dixon said. "I could go vote for John Kerry and I'm pretty sure that he's not going to win Arizona. So that's one of the things that many people believe is a problem with the electoral college system."

Even though Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election, George W. Bush won the presidency and, therefore, Garitty said he doesn't believe the popular vote matters.

"It is certainly true that there's relatively a little probability that a single individual's vote will determine the outcome of an election," Dixon said. "If that's the only reason you have to vote, it would be a disappointing experience."

Philosophy doctorate student Chris Brown, 38, is from South Hampton, England, but has lived in the United States since 1981 and is a permanent resident.

Brown chose not to become a U.S. citizen because he does not believe the democratic voting system is useful because people should vote on policies rather than people.

"The only reason I would want citizenship is to vote, but I just don't believe that the democratic process, as it is in this country, as it is in any country, is the way to do things because the democratic election as we know it is basically a popularity contest," Brown said. "Anybody can look at Florida and say, 'So much for the democratic process,'" he said.

Though Brown has never voted in an U.S. election, he said he thinks Americans should exercise their right to vote, especially in the presidential election.

"I really do believe that people should vote given that we have this democratic society," Brown said. "This is one election where I think there is a point to voting because it could get very close and to the point where every vote counts."

Bennett Kalafut, 22, a physics doctorate student and president of the UA Student Libertarian Party, plans to vote, but not for Bush or Kerry.

"Neither of the other two candidates has done anything to earn my vote," Kalafut said.

Kalafut said Bush made empty promises to Libertarian voters in the 2000 election, while Kerry likes to tell prospective voters that he has plans, but does not specify what they are.

Instead of voting for either candidate, Kalafut plans, instead, to vote for Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik.

"(Badnarik) is the only candidate out there who's been talking about the issues that appeal to me, which are civil liberties and more physical restraint, ending the war has been a major issue," Kalafut said.

Even though he knows Badnarik will not win the presidency, Kalafut said he does not believe he is throwing his vote away.

"I'm going to vote for him because it is very important for my voice to be heard," Kalafut said. "But I'm not just (giving) away my vote. I'm not throwing it away. I'd be throwing it away if I voted for somebody who did make no move to earn it."

Students who do not vote for any candidate are not sending a useful message, Kalafut said.

"I think that students that aren't voting at all are throwing away their voice," Kalafut said.

It is important for professors to motivate students to vote, as long as they do not tell students which candidate to vote for, Dixon said.

"We can talk about issues, we can talk about candidates' positions on issues and we can certainly talk about motivating students to become active in the voting process," Dixon said.

Voting is only one way to participate in the political process, Dixon said.

"I voted for an awful lot of losing candidates, so, if simply having my candidate win was the only motivation, then I probably wouldn't have voted," he said.

In addition to selecting a president, Dixon said there are many reasons to vote.

"For one thing, it gives me the personal satisfaction to support the democratic process, and I think that it's very important to have a collective good in making sure that our elections work," he said. "And I think we all have a stake in it."

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